Honor your art.
That is the motto for New Renaissance Performing Arts Company a new hip-hop dance instruction firm serving the D.C. metropolitan area. Founder Darius O’Neil built the firm from the ground up beginning in 2017 and is still working to expand, promote, and most of all – honor artistic expression.
O’Neil, a 32-year-old postgraduate student at Georgetown University, knows all too well the importance of expression and physical fitness. He’s a scientist.
As a biology doctoral candidate, O’Neil spends his week nights and part of his weekends in the lab experimenting with petri dishes and cancer cell research. His goal is to find a cure for breast cancer in the near future.
O’Neil understands the human body and what impacts it, from brain waves to the way our physical stride can translate into harmful body movement.
His professional transcript doesn’t end there.
O’Neil is a choreographer, biology teacher, adjunct professor, university supervisor, swim coach, student, and now a business owner. His life is non-stop, which is something he is happy to talk about.
“I get tired all the time,” said O’Neil. “But I do feel the obligation to do good on the planet. I’ve been blessed with talent and intellect and I don’t want it to go to waste.”
Fitness and discovery are two common threads in his busy life activities. O’Neil starts and finishes his daily schedule in those two elements.
“I do my research during the day, and I dance at night,” he said.
According to him, physical fitness impacts human lifestyle more than one might consider, especially in the long term. Perhaps even more important to him are forms of expression.
“Dance is purely an art,” said O’neil.
With his background, it makes sense that he created a business that merges physical wellness with artistic expression.
New Renaissance Performing Arts Company’s mission is to develop the artistic voice and the ability of company dancers, to share art as a means to serve the community, and to provide a platform for dancers to be professionals. O’Neil hosts dance classes at Renaissance Square Studio in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Classes are available for dancers 21 and older of all skill level for $10 per class. Clients can also purchase a “class pass” which includes six classes per package.
O’Neil requires adults only in his classes so that dancers can better relate to the story lines of his choreography.
Some of O’Neil’s previous choreography portrayed internal character struggles or issues like depression, unrequited love, domestic abuse and more. Sensoria 2017 was a showcase depicting choreography of a failed love story.
O’Neil’s personal struggles and experiences inspire the shows. He began dancing again upon receiving a request to be artistic director of Culture Shock DC in 2016, after ending his dance career four years earlier.
He was fired a few months later.
“My job as artistic director was to advocate for the dancers,” O’Neil said, reflecting on payment issues that impacted the Culture Shock DC dancers and irreconcilable differences with former Executive Director Margareta Chughtai.
His dismissal from that role sparked creation of the annual Sensoria showcases and the New Renaissance Performing Arts Company. His company is now expanding.
“Sensoria last year was only in one place. Next year, we’re going from Philly to Charlotte to Switzerland,” said O’Neil.
The company’s dance team conducts live events and showcases throughout the year. Performances were recently held Feb. 1 to entertain a group of deaf children and to teach them some movements.
O’Neil makes it a priority to inspire audience members with dance and to help other local organizations. His company donates a minimum of $500 in proceeds to philanthropic causes.
Sensoria 2018 will take place May 19 through July 14. It will host poets, contortionists, live painters, and dance performances.
Proceeds will benefit the Baltimore Dance Crews project, Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s step team, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, and Urbanology 101 – a hip-hop dance team from George Mason University.
Shandeth Montgomery is a first-time dancer with the new company and is anticipating this year’s showcase.
“I’m super excited about everything,” she said. “Darius’ overall aura is amazing and I love the fact that he just loves the art of dance so much. He has a heart of gold and that made me more passionate about joining the company.”
Tickets are available to anyone 21 years and older.
**For more information on Sensoria 2018, visit the New Renaissance Performing Arts Company website.